Inevitably it happens, your dog has to wear the dreaded cone of shame or e-collar. Most often it’s from getting neutered or spayed. We’ve had our boy, Gimli, for less than a year and have gone through 2 different rounds of e-collar time. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen Gimli all coned up and generally still loving life. Over those 4 weeks, we learned a few things on how to best manage and keep him happy.
Types of Collars
An Elizabethan collar, aka an e-collar or cone, prevents your dog from being able to lick, bite, or tear at incisions. It’s important that your dog leave wounds alone in order for them to heal. Collars can be soft or rigid, and there are inflatable ones too. The location of your dog’s wound, his flexibility, and desire to get to that wound play a role in what kind of collar you need. Gimli is lanky, so to keep him from getting his back paws, we used a hard collar as well as an inflatable collar, affectionately known as a donut. The donut restricts motion of a dog’s neck and prevented him from being able to bend to stick his foot in the cone. The donut also prevented the hard collar from sliding around on his neck, and served as a pillow when he laid down.
Our vet sent Gimli home with an donut and a hard e-collar the first time. The second time we got a floppy e-collar. Their hard collar had a velcro closure, and all Gimli had to do was ram it into the wall to pop the velcro open. It was also a cut to size one, and I was afraid if Gimli ran it up against our legs, we would get cut from the sharp edges. The soft collar took no time for Gimli to figure out his way around. We bought both of our hard collars at Petco and used them instead. Had Gimli not grown between surgeries we would have used the same one. They also have soft e-collars and donuts.
We found putting the hard collar on to be quite difficult because Gimli actively avoided the cone. It was easier if he was in the car, hooked into his seat belt where he couldn’t escape us. This worked since Gimli is small enough we can lift him into the car (jumping is generally off limits with stitches). He also loves car rides and is calmer in the car.
Our vet prescribed a sedative for Gimli to help keep him calm. During his neuter we needed to limit him from jumping and running. You can’t tell a 4-month old puppy he can’t run and jump, so the sedative was a huge help. Our vet told us to adjust the dosage a bit based on Gimli’s mood and energy levels. He was calmer and more into walking than bounding around everywhere. He was also snugglier.
The car wasn’t only handy for getting Gimli’s cone on, but it provided entertainment for him too. He likes riding in the car and since his movement is restricted by his seat belt it was a way for him to get out of the house and still be calm. We took him on errands with us and traded off who stayed in the car with him. For the car hammock we use, and other doggie tips, check out this post.
Nose work takes thought and energy without a whole lot of movement from your dog, and it tires him out. When your dog is on restricted movement, you spend a lot of time trying to tire them out without having him run around. There are tons of ideas out there, but we mainly did two games. For the first you hold both your fists out (one of which has a treat) and ask your dog to find it. The other one we did was a three cup monte with plastic cups covering a treat.
Similar to nose games, training taxes your dog more mentally than it does physically. Working for treats by sitting, laying down, etc gives your pup something to do besides mope around. Plus they get treats out of it. Gimli has somehow learned to nose boop us in the thigh right before he sits. I ended up with more than one bruise on my legs from that stupid cone.
One of Gimli’s favorite games, cone or not, is to play chase. At the dog park he will bait other dogs to chase him, and does the same at home by prancing past me carrying a toy. Gimli doesn’t bound through the house when we play chase, rather he walks at whatever speed I chase him. Chase was good to get some exercise on rainy days that would get his sutures wet outside.
Sprinkle a few treats around the house for your dog to find. Give them extra time with their rawhide. Gimli couldn’t use his front paws, because of his cone, to chew on anything smaller, like his yak cheese. Find some extra special treats to spoil your dog with. Gimli couldn’t go to the dog park while in his cone, and was pretty restricted on walks so additional treats helped keep him happy. More treats may not be the healthiest habit to keep up with for the long run, but they can help to keep your dog happy for a few weeks. Once your dog is cone free you can ease back into exercise to get them back in shape. We didn’t have any issues with Gimli putting on weight during his cone time.
Configure Your House
Gimli struggled to navigate between our couch and coffee table with his extra volume from the cone. We scooted it away to help him. He could go up the 3 stairs to get into our front window, but struggled to go down in his cone. We moved his stairs, preventing him from using them at all. Gimli didn’t fit well in his crate with his extra bulky cone, so we set an ex pen up for him instead. It might be difficult to tell ahead of time what you’ll need to adjust for your pup. Keeping an extra eye on their navigation helps.
Of course giving your dog more love and affection goes without saying. His world is disrupted and he doesn’t understand what’s going on. As his main source of comfort, giving him extra snuggles, ear scruffs, and attention can help reassure him that he will be ok. This is also can be a bonding time for you and your pup.